Snobbery and standards

Mar 24 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I am a snob. I admit it. I am a snob about things academic. Intellectual. I actually don't give a damn where you went to school.  I care about how you think. One of my objections to politicians who don't "believe in evolution" is not that evolution makes a difference to effective government. It doesn't. But if you "believe" in magical thinking in one arena, you are quite likely to in another. I am suspicious of Francis Collins' self-professed belief in a deity:

 "the experience of sequencing the human genome, and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts, was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship."

Worship? Worship? Worship what? I don't want to pick on Collins & his rationalizations. His insecurities. But if a deity intervened at one point, why not another? As an aside, I truly hate people who say that angels (or angles) are looking after them, and saved them from this that or the other. Are they more important than those that did not have the same intervention? And if you want to play the Holocaust card, where the fuck were those angels when kids were being shoveled into crematoria, or worse? I am sure you can make the case that each of us as adults are deeply imbedded in our sin and faults and general bad habits. But what about children?

But religion is only one thing about which my snobbery shorts become frosted. Right now I am thinking about an absolute hands down total waste of time called a focus group that I did for my almost-MRU. If one was a senior administrator, nay, a Dean or a Vice-President, and one wanted to set a "new course of academic excellence" for a under-utilized, under-supported and needless to say, under-performing unit within the University, why would you include mid-level administrators in said focus group? Or part-time faculty with a very specific mission in another college that involves one day a week teaching in a clinical specialty? Their contribution had to said focus group had nothing to do with academic excellence, but largely consisted of complaints about losing their clerical staff, and programs that might make money. Ok, if you want to make money, fine. Put that that in up-front.  Give the focus group a title, a name, a mission, a charge about raising money. I will know to stay away and at this point I know how to gracefully excuse myself from discussion to which I will make only cynical contributions.

But  I am a snob. I recognize that academic excellence involves money. It costs money. But if you lead with the money issue, you will not get to academic excellence. I am professor. I, in the words of the business mavens, create content for this university, by teaching and by research. I create the end products by which academic excellence is judged. Half of the twits in that meeting do not. I do not agree with giving the title "faculty", even with no expectation of, or contractual obligation to be considered for, tenure (Hell, tenure is another kettle of fish, and should not be part of this discussion).  The title "faculty" is not a fucking medal of participation that everyone gets so that everyone can be special and a winner.

I do not think senior administrative support people, no matter how good, how dedicated, how smart and how snobby, are faculty. A colleague of mine puts it differently: I could do their job, but they couldn't do mine. Yes, many of these people know things I do not know. Things I have no desire to learn. Accounting. Federal labor regulations. The intricacies of NIH budgetary lore. I respect their knowledge. I am grateful for their skills and efforts. They have a job, and can do it well or poorly. They may make life easier or compliant at a University. But they are not faculty. To be a University or a College, you need teachers and students. Maybe researchers. Everything else is the support system.  I am a snob.

If you want to revitalize the plains and forests and lakes and rivers and skies of Africa, you can ask the gazelles. They will say: more room to run. You can ask the cichlids, and they will say deeper, fresher lakes. You can ask the elephants and they will say more high grass and firm ground. You can ask the eagle, and they will say clear skies, strong winds. Then you can ask the Lion and they will just eat you up.

5 responses so far

  • M says:

    Psshhh... Holocaust. We all know that God "has a plan." And also "works in mysterious ways."

  • Abiologist says:


  • Sam says:

    They get offended when I tell them that we are the university (hat tip to Isidore Rabi) and they are actually functionaries that are there to support us.

    This post reflects a number of recent conversations (some normal, some high volume and profane) that I have been having recently. Admins aren't faculty, the departments aren't the dean's fiefdom, etc.

    We should grab a drink soon so I can yell about things to you too!

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